Stoffel Vandoorne: “I’m not setting myself any particular targets”

by Rachel Hack

McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team driver Stoffel Vandoorne is preparing to make his full season F1 debut at the Australian Grand Prix this weekend, and the Belgian confesses it could not come soon enough.

“Since my position as full-time racing driver for McLaren-Honda was confirmed back in September, it feels like the Australian Grand Prix weekend has been a long time coming.

“It’s a great feeling knowing that I’m about to start my full first season in Formula 1 and it’s a dream I’ve been working towards for my entire racing career.

“I’m looking forward to stepping into the MCL32 cockpit on Friday morning and I feel totally ready for the challenge ahead.”

Vandoorne has been working hard to be ready for the physical challenge of the new season, and McLaren Executive Director Zak Brown has previously stated that the Belgian is one of the fittest drivers he has ever worked with.

The 2015 GP2 champion is eager to go in 2017, and although he knows it will be a huge challenge, as he lines up on the grid for that first race, he is ready to push as hard as possible to achieve the best result for the team.

“I’ve prepared very well over the winter, worked a lot on my training and in particular my strength and endurance, and I’m incredibly motivated to work hard with the team to make improvements step by step.

“I’ll be pushing hard as always and I’m looking forward to getting back into the car.”

The Belgian does of course have goals he wishes to attain, but has vowed not set the bar too high and put himself under pressure at this early stage of the season. There is also the small issue of the reliability problems McLaren experienced with the Honda engine during winter testing, and whether or not they will be able to complete a full race distance to take into consideration.

Vandoorne is confident that the team can overcome those niggles however, and the plan is to just go out there, enjoy the experience, and perform to the best of his abilities.

“In terms of performance, I’m not setting myself any particular targets, other than to keep my head down, learn a lot from the team and from Fernando, and do my best.

“I know the guys and girls at McLaren and Honda very well, and I feel very much part of the family, so there’s no sense of nervousness about starting my first full season as a Formula 1 driver.

Having never been to Australia, let alone driven at the Albert Park track before, Vandoorne is looking forward to experiencing all there is to offer down under, and hopefully ending the weekend having had a positive race.

“It’s my first time in Australia so I’ll be soaking up the atmosphere, enjoying the buzz of the first race of the season, and we’ll see how the weekend unfolds from there.”

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